Acting & Improv, Research & Coding, Research & Play

World Problems: Ep.1 – Global Warming and the Magic Box Designs

“Scientists have recently determined that it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain – unless it is done with play, in which case, it takes between 10 – 20 repetitions.” (Dr Karin Purvis)

Motivation of World Problems Series

I’m starting Ana’s Research and Play with Episode 1 of the World Problems (WP) series. WP will have longer episodes (~15 mins) that combine ideation, design, prototyping and testing of sometimes crazy inventions. It is intended to experiment with possible solutions to help “save” the world. The approach is a playful one, rather than a worried and tense one. The reasoning is my belief that people achieve their best when fear of failure is out of the way.

The inventions that result from this series might or might not be viable. In this sense, WP presents a humble method to saving the world. My ambition is not to come up with precise inventions that will give accurate results (although they are very welcome). In my experience, having such pressures, under the constraint of limited time, leads to mediocre solutions and headaches. What I am trying to do is follow my curiosity and allowing myself to both innovate and fail (first attempt at learning).     

In the best case scenario, the world will benefit from an invention. Worse case scenario, I will have brainstormed some ideas that fill people with such indignation at my nerve, that they’ll just go and make their own creations. Empathy also motivates me and it is necessary to prevent an attitude of carelessness and lack of responsibility. It is important, however, to use empathy as a driving energy rather than an energy draining one. We should all make a contribution to saving the world we live in, but it mustn’t destroy us in the process – unless it’s a sacrifice of love, but that’s a different story. Let’s begin!  

Episode 1 Summary

In this episode I come up with a few crazy designs to help save the world from global warming, by using random household items. It all starts with choosing the problem out of a list of possible world problems. I then have a warm up (of my mind, not the world) by finding different uses for household items via lateral thinking.

The Magic Box, which is often seen in clowning exercises comes into play. This leads to shotfire brainstorms from Experimental Ana, who gives up grammar for creativity. It all ends with a set of crazy invention designs (see below). One of them or a combination of up to three of them could be prototyped in the future.

The Research

Episode 1 is linked more to brainstorming ideas, but research elements also find their way through. Please see the video description for the references used. Here are some research inspired elements from the video.

  • Choosing the problem
  • Motivation of play based approach
  • Review of a few accidental discoveries
  • Background on Lateral Thinking
  • Ideation of designs
  • Designing possible prototypes

The Play

The structure of Episode 1 is linked to an improv game called Fix it MacGyver! In this game, a character called MacGyver is given a problem and three random items. He or she has to come up with a solution to fix the problem by utilizing the given items.

For example, let’s say someone’s house is on fire. MacGyver has a cat, a sandwich and a chainsaw. One solution is of course to use the cat as a scout to check if there are any survivors. The chainsaw can be used to cut through the fallen parts of the house, so that the trapped victims can be reached. Once they are out, a sandwich is provided for nutrition, while waiting for the firemen.

The idea of the game is not to “get it right”, since there are “no mistakes, just opportunities in improv” (Tina Fey). Letting your thoughts imagine the wildest solutions is very liberating because it cuts out inner criticism. What improvisers experience with this game is also linked to Julia Cameron’s theory, described in her book The Artist’s Way. She recommends evading the inner critic by free writing three pages of whatever comes to mind every morning.

My Experimental Ana from the video uses this technique of free and spontaneous thought. Censoring of ideas is kept to a minimum, giving priority to the joy of discovering where my own thoughts take me. In the paraphrased words of Keith Johnstone, one of the pillars of improv, “You must trust that your mind, God or the giant moose will tell you what to say.”

The elements of play in Episode 1 are the following:

  • Defining the game guidelines (box of objects + find different uses for them)
  • Magic box game linked to clowning exercise
  • Lateral thinking solutions to a problem breaks patterns of thinking
  • Experimental Ana uses free and spontaneous thought
  • Experimental Ana uses jump and justify improv technique (say the word first and then justify its meaning)
  • Creating designs with commitment

Designs

After the research and play collaboration, seven designs emerged. These are not necessarily viable designs, but they open up a world of possibilities! Please have a look and tell me which of these designs you would like prototyped in the future!

MinivacuumShoesFlowerShapedFlowerpotBadAirSmasherSmartRopeEDangeredSnifferFreshLifeBalancerBoaCleaner

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Acting & Improv

CORE Improv Theatre Course

Character. Objective. Relationship. Environment

If we treat each other as if we are geniuses, poets, and artists, we have a better chance of becoming that on-stage.” (Del Close)

Who: 
Anamaria Ciucanu
(anamaria.ciucanu@gmail.com)

anaonpier

Anamaria

When:
Fridays 10th of May – 28th of June
19:00 – 21:00
(!) Dates might change after taster session,
depending on room availability.

Where:
New Oriel Hall in Larkhall, Bath
Small Studio

How much:
[1] FREE taster on the 10th of May!
[2] Pay as you go 10£/7£ (cons*) per class
[3] Pay for all 7 weeks in one go 55£/40£ (cons)
(!) Offer [3] is the best value for money, plus you get to be in a show for family and friends at the end.
(!) cons* = students, unemployed, low income, retired

What:
Week 1 – FREE Taster Class
Subtheme: Yes and! (Acceptance)
Date: 10th of May 2019

Week 2 – Character 
Subtheme: Letting go of the fear of failure!
Date: 17th of May 2019

Week 3 – Objective
Subtheme: Listening
Date: 24th of May 2019

Week 4 – Relationship
Subtheme: Taking care of each other
Date: 31st of May 2019

Week 5 – Environment
Subtheme: Object work
Date: 7th of June 2019

Week 6 – Practice Class
Subtheme: Jump and justify!
Date: 14th of June 2019

Week 7 – Practice Class
Subtheme: Go deeper, find your why.
Date: 21st of June 2019

Week 8 – Show for Family and Friends
Subtheme: TBD
Date: 28th of June 2019

(!) Each class is self-contained, but people are encouraged to attend as many as possible to feel an improvement.

Who is it for?
CORE Improv is intended for beginners and those who want to hone their skills in the improv craft. People that struggle with anxiety, who want to enhance their spontaneity, confidence and creativity are especially welcome!

More Details:
Improv is a form of theatre without a script. Improvisers create characters and stories on the spot with their fellow actors. Simple techniques like “Yes and”, listening, collaboration and commitment are often used to make laughter and mystery appear out of thin air. Some of the pioneers of this artform are Keith Johnstone, Viola Spolin and Del Close. Their methods influenced the way I learnt and teach improv techniques. See https://anamariaciucanu.com/storytelling/ for a list of all my more modern influences, as well as teachers that shaped me along the way.

This course is a set of 8 self-contained classes, spanned over 8 weeks, starting with a FREE taster class! It is a journey through the realm of improvised theatre, with a strong focus on short form scenes, characters and storytelling. Although not specifically designed as a comedy course, you’ll find that laughter springs often from our interactions and wild ideas.

The acronym CORE stands for the building blocks of any good story: character (who?), objective (what?), relationship (why?), environment (where?). It can also be a metaphor for working on your core creativity muscles. This is pilates for your mind!

“There are no mistakes, just opportunities,” (Tina Fey)  

“as long as everyone is having fun.” (me)  

(!) Click here to see all of my improv related projects and testimonials.

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Acting & Improv, Character Essences

The Logic of Movement

A year ago I went to a workshop called The Logic of Movement with Stephen Mottram, an amazingly gifted puppeteer. He showed us how each character has a unique movement code that defines its personality. ‘A piece of cloth can move like a chicken’, he said and also showed us, as we gaped in amazement. Now, as I’m writing about handmade characters in my thesis, I came across some of his work from 1990, Animata.

I’m sharing one of the videos here. I find it fascinating that a simple set of ping pong balls can create such complex characters in our minds. This is DEFINITELY an area of great interest to me, as a future independent researcher.

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